Sunday, April 5, 2020

Eye Exams & Diagnosing Alzheimer’s

A recent study published by Duke University researchers in the journal Retina suggests that an observed loss of blood vessels in the retina may reflect changes in brain health and could signal Alzheimer’s disease. In people with healthy brains, microscopic blood vessels form a dense web at the back of the eye inside the retina. In the eyes of people with Alzheimer’s disease, that web was less dense and even sparse in places. The differences in density were statistically significant after researchers controlled for factors including age, sex, and level of education. The study measured blood vessels that can’t be seen during a regular eye exam using noninvasive technology that takes high-resolution images of very small blood vessels within the retina in just a few minutes, called Optical Coherence Tomography-Angiography (OCT-A). They concluded that it’s possible that these changes in blood vessel density in the retina could mirror what’s going on in the tiny blood vessels in the brain, perhaps before we are able to detect any changes in cognition. 

With nearly 6 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease and no viable treatments or noninvasive tools for early diagnosis, its burden on families and the economy is heavy. Scientists at have studied other changes in the retina that could signal trouble upstream in the brain, such as thinning of some of the retinal nerve layers. The goal would be to use this technology to detect Alzheimer’s early, before symptoms of memory loss are evident, and be able to monitor these changes over time in participants of clinical trials studying new Alzheimer’s treatments.

Please mention any concerns you have about Alzheimer’s during your regular eye exam. To learn more about new technology and examination techniques we are using, please just ask us at your scheduled appointment.

If you or someone you know has not had a recent eye exam please schedule an appointment at Alabama Eye & Cataract Center in Birmingham at 205-930-0930, visit Alabama Eye & Cataract Center or

Alabama Eye & Cataract Center is a leading eye care center in Birmingham located at UAB-Highlands, 1201 11th Avenue S, Suite 501, Birmingham, Alabama 35205 and staffed by UAB Medicine eye doctors and eye specialists.